What Not To Say To The Grieving

by L-Johnson
woman leaning against tree in cemetery

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” Kahlil Gibran

When someone you care about is grieving, your presence and sympathy alone is all that’s needed to provide some comfort during this difficult time. We feel like we should find the right words to say, but knowing what not to say can be just as important. A lot of the following commonly heard phrases might seem on the surface to be “right” but can actually cause more harm to their emotions.

• “It was God’s will.”
• “It was just his time.”
• “The Lord must have needed him more that we did.”
• “It’s part of God’s plan.”
• Don’t try to find a lesson in the event or say it was part of a plan. This can make people angry.

• “You’re strong enough to handle this.”
• “I admire your courage.”
• “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.”

Statements like these may prevent people from asking for help when they need it.

• “I know how you feel.”

It’s impossible to know what someone else is feeling. Say instead, “I can’t imagine how you’re feeling.” They may tell you what they feel, but don’t push.

• “You know he wouldn’t have wanted you to feel this way.”
• “How do you think he would feel if he saw you like this?”
• “Crying and being depressed will not bring them back.”
• “Are you better now?”

Statements like these cause people to feel guilty for grieving. Full recovery from the loss of a spouse may take years – some may never stop grieving. Allow your friend to heal at their own pace.

• “Look at what you have to be thankful for.”
• or to grieving parents: “Be grateful for the children you still have.”

This one’s just obvious. They know what they still have and it’s not on their mind right now.

“If you need anything, let me know.”

Grieving individuals are sometimes too overwhelmed to think of things for you to do. Instead say, “Would it be helpful if I were to…”

• “He’s in a better place now.”
• “If you were more religious these things wouldn’t be happening to you.”

The bereaved may not believe this. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked.

• “This is behind you now; it’s time to get on with your life.”• “It was so long ago, you need to move on.”

Sometimes the bereaved are resistant to moving on because they feel this means forgetting their loved one. Moving on is easier said than done. Everyone grieves at their own pace.

• “You should…” or “You will…”

These statements are too directive. Instead, you should begin your comments with “Have you thought about…” or “You could…”

• “You must feel so lost.”
• “Things are really going to be awful for you for a while.”
• “Life will never be the same.”

Someone who is grieving is already overwhelmed and sad. These negative comments just make it worse. Instead, ask them how they are feeling and allow them to express what they are going through.

Read more:

Supporting a Grieving Person: Helping Others Through Grief and Loss | Helpguide.org

What NOT to Say at a Funeral

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